These ‘skills potholes’ are particularly prevalent in skilled trades such as chefs, plumbers and electricians where one in three vacancies are classified by employers as hard to fill, found the annual Skills Survey from the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES). Professionals were the next most likely group to have shortages, with one in five positions in the same category.
But despite training being the key to solving such skills gaps, most employers with hard-to-fill vacancies said they responded by spending more on advertising and recruitment (39 per cent) or by trying new recruitment methods (32 per cent) rather than investing more in training existing staff (8 per cent) or by starting or expanding a trainee programme (7 per cent).
The extent to which training was provided varied widely by sector. In construction, transport & communication and business services, only around half of employers provided any training at all, whereas more than 80 per cent of health, education and public administration employers had trained their staff in the last year.
“Some employers are outstanding at training their staff, but many are not,” said Jeremy Anderson, chairman of global financial services at KPMG and a UKCES commissioner. “This has led to the development of so-called ‘skills potholes’ – areas, sectors or occupations which are suffering from deep, painful and persistent skills gaps. Like potholes they are often ignored, but risk making the road to economic recovery throughout the UK bumpier and slower than it needs to be.
“By encouraging employers to step up and take greater responsibility for the skills needs of their people we will help to align public and private investment in skills and fill in these potholes.”
He called on firms to see training as an investment rather than a cost, and to provide more focused training opportunities where staff have the chance to put their learning into practice as quickly as possible.
Skills minister John Hayes added: “Businesses well equipped with the skills that training brings are most likely to succeed. We know that businesses that don’t train their staff are twice as likely to fail and there’s a very strong link between low skills, poverty and unemployment.
“My mission is to reshape the character of learning and workforce skills. That is why this government has helped 457,000 people start apprenticeships last year and we’re aiming for half a million. We know that businesses that invest in skills improve their bottom line and the health of the nation.”